NEW YORK – The Yankees have been where the Rangers are now and recently enough that many of them have much-too-vivid memories of it.
It was the 2004 American League Championship Series and the Yankees had what appeared to be a comfortable three games to one lead over the Red Sox after losing Game 4.
But the ultimate result became one of the darkest moments in the Yankees’ long and mostly proud postseason history. The Red Sox went on to the World Series.
Well, Wednesday, the Yankees began the long climb out of their self-dug hole with a 7-2 victory over the Rangers in Game 5 of the ALCS. Now down 3-2 in the series they need two more victories to accomplish what only three others in the ALCS have accomplished in 17 tries.
“It’s not disappointing,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the loss. “It’s a seven-game series.”
Well, actually, it is now a two-game series. Maybe only one if Colby Lewis can outpitch Phil Hughes when the series resumes Friday.
But, with the Yankees, you never know and manager Joe Girardi said he could tell before Wednesday’s game it could be a special one.
“There was a determination,” he said. “We have not played extremely well in this series, to say the least. I saw it during batting practice, the mood was very business-like and we knew what we had to do and the guys went out and did it.”
That included CC Sabathia, who may not have been at his best but still saved the Yankees from a winter-long wrath of the faithful. Despite struggling through six innings with 11 hits, he left with a four-run lead. And that was far better than his five-runs-in-four innings during the opener.
With Girardi taking no chances with his maligned middle relief, Kerry Wood pitched two innings and Mariano Rivera one to finish it off. Acquired late in the season, Wood has allowed only one run in six postseason innings.
“I felt that he would pitch good,” said Girardi, a former batterymate with the Cubs, “but I don’t think anyone (would expect) after two months his ERA would be below 1.00. Some of the best relievers of all time don’t do that.”
As for Yankees hitters, who came into the game with a .198 batting average, they jumped on starter C.J. Wilson in the second inning for three runs with the help of two walks and an error. It was only their second multi-run inning of the series.
An inning later, they added two more on back-to-back homers from Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano.